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AuthorIAm David L. Craddock, author of "Rocket Jump," a book about the making of Quake and the origin of first-person shooters. AMA!

Feb 16th 2018 by dlcraddock • 5 Questions • 49 Points

EDIT 1: Thanks for all the great questions so far! I'll be around until 7pm ET to answer more. If you're curious about Rocket Jump, check out the links below.

EDIT 2: Thank you again for a fun session, Reddit. Feel free to take a look at the book using the links at the bottom of the post.

Hi, Reddit. My name is David L. Craddock, and I'm the author of the book Rocket Jump: Quake and the Golden Age of First-Person Shooters. AMA about Quake, id Software, and FPS games from the 1990s!

Here's proof that IAm who I say IAm.

Rocket Jump is a spiritual successor of sorts to Masters of Doom, David Kushner's excellent biography of id Software's team and early years, and a book that had a huge influence on my writing. I wrote Rocket Jump through a combination of research and firsthand interviews with Quake developers such as John Carmack, John Romero, Tim Willits, American McGee, Jennell Jaquays, Sandy Petersen, Graeme Devine, and many others. The book concentrates on the Quake franchise as well as other foundational FPS titles from the '90s including Half-Life, Duke Nukem 3D, Rise of the Triad, and Star Wars: Dark Forces.

I published Rocket Jump on Shacknews.com in December 2017, and as of this morning it's available for pre-order on Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher and platform. Unbound will be publishing the book in hardcover and in digital formats, with an estimated release date of spring/summer 2019.

I learned a ton about id's internal processes and culture while writing Rocket Jump, so I thought I'd pop in to answer questions about what I learned researching id Software, my writing process, the book's contents, and chat about our favorite first-person shooters. I'll be around starting at 5pm ET / 2pm PT.

AMA!

Links:

-@davidlcraddock

-Rocket Jump on Shacknews.com

-Pre-order Rocket Jump in hardcover/digital formats on Unbound

-More of my books (Stay Awhile and Listen, Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution, Heritage: Book One of the Gairden Chronicles, Dungeon Hacks, and more)

Q:

Interesting topic. What inspired you to write about it?

A:

Great question! I love FPS games. I grew up playing NES games, but Wolfenstein 3D was the game that opened my eyes to PC gaming. I discovered Wolf3D from, of all places, a medical transcription class my mom was taking. When I was sick, I was too young to stay home alone, so I went with my mom to class. Her teacher was this big, deep-voiced woman named Sally. She'd sit at the front of the class while my mom and the other students transcribed reports or studied medical terminology. I'd sit at a desk in the back and do homework... and read issues of Nintendo Power.

One day Sally motioned me up to her desk. I thought she'd want to show me a word processor or something. Instead, I found her cackling and mowing down Nazis in Wolfenstein. I was amazed. I'd never seen a game move that fast, or gameplay that violent. Sally gave me the disks for the shareware episode. I installed them on the 386 machine my uncle had made for me a year or so earlier and played incessantly. When I got my Sound Blaster 16, I cranked the volume and was blown away by the Nazi guards' shouts and the roar of the chaingun.

I discovered Doom from an even more incongruous source: church. During Sunday school one morning, my friend Aaron and I sat in the back so he could tell me all about this game called Doom. When I realized the Wolfenstein 3D people made it, I knew I had to try it. I got the shareware version from Carnation Computer, a local computer store ran by my friend's dad. Once again: hooked. I figured God wouldn't mind me playing this violent game because even though I was going to hell, I was there to kill demons. I was helping.

Quake came out when my friends and I were freshmen in high school. The morning I learned the game took up 80 MEGABYTES OF SPACE, I ran to my friend's home room so we could figure out how the hell we'd possibly clear that much space on our computers.

As more shooters released, each seemed more creative than the last. Duke Nukem 3D, Half-Life, Unreal, more Quake games. All they shared in common were a few standard weapons like shotguns and chainguns. Everything else felt so unique: engines, color palettes, speeds, strategies, weapons, level design. There was so much creativity, so many different types of shooters.

I've wanted to write a book like ROCKET JUMP for years, purely for the opportunity to talk to John Romero, John Carmack, and the other designers who made my favorite games.


Q:

What is your personal favorite first-person shooter?

A:

Doom 1. Varied level design, and the perfect blend of action, tension, and horror. I know most Doom fans prefer Doom 2, and I liked it, but I thought the first game's creepy atmosphere and pacing were sacrificed at the altar of more action and larger areas. It's still a great game, but Doom 1 is perfect.


Q:

Is it mainly nostalgia that earns it the number one spot for you? FPS have certainly came a long way since the days of doom. Old school shooters aside, what about a favorite modern FPS?

A:

It's definitely more than nostalgia. I think Doom is still a shining example of nonlinear FPS design. Its levels are more interesting than more setpiece-focused games like Call of Duty's campaigns: There are tons of places to explore and items to find, and the gameplay loop is still fun.

One of my favorite modern FPS games is Wolfenstein: The New Order (haven't been able to play Wolf 2: New Colossus yet). It managed to combine larger stages and a concentration on shooting with a story, without letting the story get in the way of action and exploration.


Q:

Hi Dave! I haven't read your book yet so maybe this is answered within. But - I honestly have not really been keeping up on the game studio, engine development scene like I did in college (when Quake came out and we all used to follow gave developer .plan updates from the likes of Carmack and Romero like religious idols). It seems however that id these days just keeps putting out new id Tech engines and every 3-4 years we get a new Quake game. Clearly they're still in business, and their games are always fun to play.... but how do they feel about this? Does anyone lament the good old days like "sigh. remember when everyone used our engine? and we could afford Ferraris?"

When Quake 1 and 2 were the hot shit, the Quake engines were THE engines everyone used for their games. The only real competitor was the Unreal engine. Now there's dozens of successful commercial or community maintained engines (Epic's Unreal, DICE's Frostbite, Unity engine) and ... I don't see id Tech powering a lot of the AAA games these days. Are they concerned about this or are they happy in their niche?

A:

Excellent question. I do think id views engine development differently than it used to, but I also know the teams believe in their in-house architecture. Quake Champions uses a hybridized version of id Tech only because Doom 2016's engine wasn't ready when Champions started development.

Also, id Software is just coming out the other end of an identity crisis. After John Carmack left for Oculus, all but a few pioneering developers remained. Doom 4 went through a reboot from a Call of Duty-inspired design to the game that became "Doom 2016." Bethesda/ZeniMax owns them, which isn't a bad thing, but they're simply no longer an independent studio and, I think, have only recently found their identity.

Doom 2016 and Quake Champions are two sides of the same coin: Doom presents a fantastic single-player campaign that fuses old and new schools of design; Champions is a multiplayer-focused, old-school (Quake 3/Live) style of shooter that introduces new elements such as "hero"-type characters very carefully so as not to disturb the concentration of skill-based gameplay that Q3/Live were known for.

Right now, Doom 2016's id Tech 6 engine seems to be more of a tool for ZeniMax-owned studios such as id and MachineGames. Maybe it'll make a splash outside, but I think id is wise to take baby steps toward solidifying its identity post-pioneers like Romero, Carmack, Tom Hall, and Adrian Carmack.


Q:

Of all the people you interviewed for Rocket Jump, which one do you think was the best kisser?

A:

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